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Sail through your run

Recreational and injury free: Running can be fun and easy PHOTO: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury  

Running is one of the easiest fitness regimens to pick up. At its core, it doesn’t require fancy equipments or gadgets. All one has to do is to step out and start running. From beginners to seasoned marathoners, there are a lot more people running in India today than a decade ago.

But, simple as it may seem, running is also prone to injuries. Most runners do get injured at some point during their running journey. It is not a question of ‘if’ but simply a question of ‘when’.

I was happily running for over seven years until injuries started plaguing me. What started as a minor niggle in my foot turned out to be a persistent plantar fasciitis monkey that even now refuses to get off my back (feet). Ever since, some injury or the other has been my uninvited companion. This has not only slowed me down, but has also forced me to take a step back and examine many aspects of my running -- diet, shoes, gait and clothing, I have reviewed and revised many of my practices.

One area I paid a particular attention to was my running form and have taken some corrective measures. Though it took a while for some of these changes to sink in and are changes are still evasive sometimes, I do believe these small revisions to my running form have helped me get out of the injury pit and continue running.

So what is running form? Simply put, it is whatever you do while you run -- from how you land, how you breathe, to how you swing your arms – everything you do while running impacts your running. A good running form is one that lets you run efficiently and keeps you injury-free.

One important disclaimer before we dive further into the story. If you have been running for a while and are injury-free, then you should stay the course and there is nothing to examine or change. It is important to recognise that everyone’s running form is different and what works for one might not work for others.

If you have watched the running events of Rio 2016, you would have noticed how the running form is wildly different amongst the elite. Each had his /her own ‘style’ and was obviously good at it. But all of them are super-optimised running ‘machines’, and must have honed their running form through years of rigorous training.

Running form (body mechanics) is developed over a period of time, and doesn’t change that easily. However, an objective look at your running form and conscious corrective steps an improve your running form over a period of time.

In this two-part series, I will reflect on my key learnings on running form. While we focus on the ‘what’ today.

Landing softly

Running is a high-impact sport. Each time we land, we are pounding the ground several times with our body weight. If you are thudding (able to hear your foot strike), then you may be exerting too much energy. This can have a tremendous impact on your feet and joints. So, landing gently does make sense.

Breathing easy

Most of us are recreational runners and take to it for fitness. But, we find ourselves out of breath as soon as we start running. This indicates we are exerting more than what our body is capable of. For most recreational runners like us, it is important to run steady by breathing easy.

Swinging gently

If you have watched any of the running events, you would have observed this phenomenon. While some runners swing their arms wildly, others move their arms as little as possible. It is an acknowledged fact that excessive arm movement doesn’t make a runner go faster or further. But, it does induce body fatigue and tires out the runner.

Running tall

Running tall is easier said than done. Instead of slightly leaning forward from the ankle, many runners end up slouching from their waist. This ends up tiring them and reduces oxygen intake.

As we have discussed the ‘what’ of the running form, we shall seek the ‘how to’ in the next part. I will attempt to answer all these ‘how’ questions from this story in my next instalment.

The author is a recreational runner and co-founder of Chennai Runners. He has run 58 marathons till date and wishes to stay injury free to keep running like Fauja Singh.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 9:33:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Sail-through-your-run/article14580451.ece

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